Fayetteville Arkansas, University of Arkansas--Old Main Overview

Fayetteville Arkansas, University of Arkansas--Old Main Overview
Overview of Fayetteville, AR

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Walton Arts Center Hits a Home Run

It’s the post season for baseball, so this analogy seems appropriate. Last evening I attended the 2nd concert of the Walton Arts Center’s 10x10 series. This is a series of concerts priced at the ridiculously low price of $10 per ticket in an effort to get more people to attend events at the WAC. There will be 10 of them during this concert season of various kinds of music, dance and other events. The first one was a chamber music concert on Friday by the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center (New York).

The concert I saw last night was an unforgettable experience--an evening with Omara Portuondo, an 80-year-old “torch singer” in the old tradition from Cuba. She was accompanied by a group of 5 top caliber jazz musicians (Latin jazz).

Portuondo is a funny, charismatic, extremely talented singer, who (although she spoke entirely in Spanish) was able to communicate with the audience and establish a rapport early on. Through hand gestures she got everyone clapping and participating.

Sometimes it wasn’t immediately evident what she wanted us to do, but eventually we caught on. For example, at one point, she bent down and began chanting, which the audience was also supposed to do. We didn’t, until she stood up and stated loudly the only words in English that she spoke all evening: “pig sooie.” She had done her homework and had us calling the Razorbacks in the middle of her concert, mostly of very old songs in Spanish from the 40s. The only one that most people probably recognized was Guantanamera, and also perhaps Beseme Mucho.

The piano player was extraordinary, as were the other musicians: a bass player, guitarist, and two percussionists, one on a normal drum set and the other on other percussion instruments like conga drums, special sound effects, etc. The concert was structured like a jazz set and Portuondo gave each musician a chance to solo and shine various times throughout the concert.

I had never heard of this lady before, but according to her bio, she is a legend in her own country. It’s really a shame that politics gets in the way of art, where the Cuban trade embargo has deprived us of such extraordinary music for such a long time. I would have liked to see this lady in her prime.

And I applaud the Walton for bringing an event such as this to NW Arkansas. We really are lucky to have such a facility here where we can hear great music, see Broadway shows and dance troupes, as well as many other sorts of entertainment. This concert was totally unexpected, from my point of view, and it made me realize that I really do like Cuban music.

For information about upcoming concerts in the 10x10 series as well as other events at the Walton Arts Center, click here.

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